Brighton police apologize to man handcuffed in park

State

BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) — The Brighton Police Department apologized Tuesday to a man who was handcuffed at a park on Sunday.

Matt Mooney, 33, says he was handcuffed at Donelson Park in front of his 6-year-old daughter Sunday afternoon after police told him he violated the state’s social distancing guidelines.  

Mooney told the FOX31 Problem Solvers he refused to provide his identification to three police officers because he was confident he wasn’t doing anything unlawful by playing tee-ball with his wife and daughter at the park.

Former Brighton City Councilman Kirby Wallin recorded much of the incident on his cellphone.

The sign at Donelson Park said “Closed” but in smaller print read, “in groups of no more than 4 persons, parks remain open for walking, hiking, biking, running and similar activities.”

Mooney said he was only there with his wife and daughter. He said it was the officers who were violating social distancing guidelines.

“During the contact, none of the officers had masks on, none of them had gloves on, and they’re in my face handcuffing me, they’re touching me,” he said.

Mooney said he was released after spending about 10 minutes in the back of a patrol car but said he still deserved an apology.

On Tuesday, acting Brighton City Manager Marv Falconburg called Mooney to try to arrange a meeting with BPD Cmdr. Frank Acosta to offer an apology on behalf of the police department.

“Falconburg conveyed an apology, however, Mr. Mooney has declined the offer for an in person meeting,” BPD said via email.

According to police, about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, officers were dispatched to the park because a citizen was concerned about a “large group of people.”

When officers arrived, there was a group of about 12-15 people who appeared to be playing softball at the park, according to police.

“Although the officers asked them to disperse due to the park being closed, which was incorrect, disbursement was needed due to the state’s public health order regarding group gathering.  The Brighton Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into what led to officers detaining Mr. Mooney while responding to the complaint. While the investigation sorts through the different versions of what took place by witnesses who were at the park, it is evident there was an overreach by our police officers,” the police department said.

BPD said officers have to interpret several changing state public health orders and local closures, and there may have been a misunderstanding about the park closure.

“It is imperative that we improve communication with our front line first responders so they are up to date on the latest rules in place regarding COVID-19 for addressing public safety.  This is an opportunity for us to come together and do better for the community. We are deeply sorry for the events that took place on Sunday and the impact on Mr. Mooney, his family, and the community,” BPD said.

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